Section Thirty (SSU 30)
- Published in History
After a month of inactivity at May-en-Multien, SECTION THIRTY was at last formed, and on the 16th of July, 1917, left Paris for Dugny, near Verdun. From this base it served Vadelaincourt, Chaumont, Monthairon, and other hospitals. On September 4 it left Dugny for Rambluzin, near Benoite Vaux for repos. During the second week in October the Section was moved on flatcars to Blanzy, south of Soissons, where the recruiting officers found it. On October 15, it moved to Vauxrot in the same sector, from there aiding in the Fort Malmaison attack of October 23, and finally moving on October 28 to Saint-Remy, en repos. Upon the militarization of the Service the remaining members of Section Thirty were combined with those of old Section Eighteen to form Six-Forty-Two of the U.S.A. Ambulance Service.
'The Ambulance Sections', History of the American Field Service in France, "Friends of France" 1914-1917, Told by Its Members, Volume II (Boston and New York: Houghton and Mifflin Company, 1920)
Verdun! A clarion thy name shall ring
Adown the ages and the Nations see
Thy monuments of glory. Now we bring
Thank-offering and bend the reverent knee,
Thou star upon the crown of Liberty!
COMING TO FRANCE --- WORK AT DUGNY
The "Harvard Section" was composed of twenty-five Cambridge graduates and undergraduates, plus a few aspirants, and all of us must express our gratitude to Mrs. Henry B. Duryea, whose energetic efforts terminated successfully in raising a sum sufficient to equip the Section with Fords.
On June 2, 1917, we sailed from New York for Bordeaux. During the trip across, Paul Rainey, the lion-hunter, decided to obtain moving pictures of the stern gun in action; so when the gunners went through the usual motions of loading, one of them slipped a shell into the gun while the second was posing, with the result that the latter touched off the firing-pin and the obus went skipping past a passing cargo ship. Whereupon the captain gave the gunner two months in prison, the passengers went back to their books and shuffle-board, and Rainey developed his film.
We spent only a week in Paris and a month at May-en-Multien waiting for the promised "flivvers," when finally on July 16 we took up our work under the wise and kind leadership of Ralph Richmond, formerly of Section Fifteen, and just fresh from the officers' school at Meaux.
Travelling in convoy, we arrived in Châlons for our first night. Here we saw our first Boche prisoners, and caused considerable excitement among the French poilus by playing baseball. They rather marvelled at the distance the Americans could throw the ball, and were quite unable to imitate us. The next morning, with sore arms from cranking stiff cars, we got an early start and reached Bar-le-Duc in the forenoon, where every one stocked up with the famous jelly of the town. In repacking some of the cars six months later, we found a few jars of this jelly carefully hidden in the side-boxes where they had been put at that time.
At our Dugny cantonment we were assigned two tents connected with the large evacuation hospital built for the coming attack at Verdun, where we lived in more or less luxury, having electric lights and being able to take shower baths under the water spigots when the military doctors were not about. Wounded did not begin coming in for about ten days, so under the able direction of our first Sous-Chef, Bingham, all took turns in stringing barbed wire around the cantonment, putting up an eating-tent, building a cook-shack, and cracking stones for a road for the cars. Avion combats, passing troops, and now and then a burning saucisse were the only things that looked like war until the heavy artillery began to speak, and wounded poured in. Then the cars started to work, carrying blessés to Vadelaincourt, Chaumont, Monthairon, and other hospitals varying distances away.
The most distasteful trip was that to the railway station in our town. The Boches were evidently bent on forcing the ravitaillement base to move farther back, for they began dropping close to the station "380's" from their naval guns. At first the shells came at weekly intervals --- on Sunday mornings; but gradually the intervals grew shorter until at the end of August a certain number were sure to come twice a day. The town soon began to take on a more desolate appearance as the houses here and there commenced to tumble and the few civilians and many soldiers moved out. At the hospital in the centre of the town --- to give one example of these changed conditions --- seven nurses were one day huddled in an open trench while the shelling lasted, when a misguided shell fell directly on their temporary refuge, killing three of them and wounding the other four. It was our No. 757 that carried to the hospital Mlle. Yolande de Baye, who shortly afterwards was decorated with the Cross of the Legion of Honor in recognition of her heroic conduct on this occasion.
During August the average of cars rolling per day was about ten, and at no time did we call on the ten French cars held at the hospital as a reserve for our Section. In the last days of this month shells landed upon the operating-room of Hospital 225 and in consequence the medical authorities decided to evacuate it, which gave our twenty cars a busy two hours. But after this the work gradually slackened up, until at the beginning of September, when our hospital shut its doors, the cars stood idle.
HOSPITALS BOMBED --- A MOVE BY TRAIN
The last moonlit nights of August were made memorable by the aviation raids about which much appeared in the newspapers. Not only were bombs dropped on over five of the hospitals near Verdun, but the aviators also raked the roads with their machine guns. In consequence of this heartless conduct, two military doctors were killed and four wounded as they worked in the hospital where we were quartered. Other bombs dropped on all sides, but did little damage except tearing holes in our tents and upturning a few graves in the near-by cemetery. So, after spending several nights in near-by trenches and under haystacks, the fellows received with pleasure the order to move for a three weeks' repos, which was spent in the Bois de Chanois at Rambluzin, a typically French village near Benoite Vaux, noted for its shrine, to which many pilgrimages were made before the war.
Our peaceful existence in these delightful woods was interrupted by the rumors of the nearness of the recruiting commission sent out to take over the Field Service sections. Then came an unexpected order to entrain for an unknown destination. It did not take long to pack and at the appointed hour we were at Ligny-en-Barrois, where our Fords were put atop of flatcars. It was a somewhat perilous trip in a sense, because of the strong temptation to visit your neighbor on the next car while the train was moving along. On the other hand, it was interesting, for a change, to sit inside your ambulance and watch through the window the French scenery. At 2 A.M. the train came to a stop in Villers-Cotterets, where we learned that we had changed from the Fourth to the Sixth Army. Then the heavy French ambulances on the forward part of the train had to be unloaded first, and as there was but one platform on which the cars could be placed it was not until seven that the first Ford was taken off. For this work the Section was divided into squads working in relays: one squad detaching the freight car and pushing it by hand to the platform, another running the ambulance off the car, and the third switching the empty car. It took just an hour and a half to unload and park, ready for the start to Blanzy, where the Section was to be held in reserve for the Tenth Army Corps.
SOISSONS --- THE RECRUITING OFFICERS
It was at Blanzy that the U.S. recruiting commission found us living in our cars and trying to keep dry. The officers, who appeared unexpectedly and in a downpour of rain, sat down in the only room near by which boasted a fireplace, and there the Section gathered around to ask questions. But the fact that interested us most in this connection was the official promise that the group should continue to be known as Section Thirty.
About October 15 we moved to Vauxrot, north of Soissons, to do the evacuation work, and were quartered in a barrack in a destroyed distillery. After shovelling bottles for over an hour, we were able to park the cars without losing any tires. There were bottles everywhere --- empty ones --- and as a further disappointment the proprietor of the place refused to allow old grenades and spent shells to be thrown at the stock!
During the Aisne attack the work was not too heavy. Yet with Section Sixty-Seven, which was with us at this moment, we received the felicitations of the Minister of War for what we did during this October push.
On October 28 we again went en repos, this time at Saint-Remy, where the official cantonment was a large farmhouse. But the men preferred to scatter to all parts of the town. Coffee and bread would be served by the Section at seven-thirty, and by eight the various groups would be breakfasting before the open fires on chocolate with omelettes and toast.
Before the breaking-up on November 10, the Section made one more move to Soissons, when its personnel was completed by men from Section Eighteen and the Ambulance Base Camp, when, for just a month thereafter, five cars worked daily from the Central Hospital at Soissons, at the end of which period we were attached to the 22d Division of the Eleventh Army Corps.
From July, 1917, when the Section started out, up to the end of the year, we carried 3773 wounded and 1651 sick cases.
ALBERT EDWARD MACDOUGALL*
*Of Flushing, New York; Harvard, '18; joined the American Field Service in June, 1917, when he became Sous-Chef of Section Thirty; subsequently a First Lieutenant in the U.S.A. Ambulance Service.
THE WORK OF THE HUNS
Dugny, August 3, 1917
Yesterday afternoon I took three severely wounded men to the railway station where they were to be shipped farther back for further treatment. One of these chaps --- they were peasants between thirty and forty years old --- had both legs off, another an arm lost, and the third some shrapnel in his head and chest. They remained lying in my car for about an hour without a murmur, awaiting the arrival of the train, which was late. In the meanwhile a soldier came up and asked me for a cigarette, and we talked as he smoked. He was twenty years old; two brothers had been killed in the war, and his father and mother had been lost, soon after the destruction of his home, in territory over which the Germans swept at the beginning of the war. He is now alone in the world, and rather a bitter soul, to say the least. He was seventeen when the Germans came riding into his home town and took possession of the house. In one room lay a wounded French sergeant who was decidedly in the way of the German officers. One of the latter caught a youngster of thirteen giving the sergeant a cup of water, and knocking this out of his hand, ordered the boy to shoot the sergeant. The boy raised the gun that was thrust into his hands and aimed it at the sergeant as he lay on the straw, but just as he pulled the trigger he twisted the muzzle around so that the bullet pierced the chest of the German lieutenant, who dropped at his feet. The young chap who told me this said that this was a part of what he had witnessed, and gave it as the reason why he no longer took prisoners when the choice came to him. He had played marbles with the boy of thirteen many a time in happier days before the war. Some of my friends here don't believe the story, but I do, he was so evidently sincere, and a man does n't wipe tears from his eyes when joking.
MUD AND ARTILLERY
It has rained continuously for several days and you have no idea what mud is until you have run a car through this mud and then tried to wash it off. I came off twenty-four hours' duty at the hospital-church yesterday and then attempted to live up to regulations by washing my car. I ran it down to an open space a little off the main road and near a running brook. The car was caked several inches thick, for it had had several trips the night before, and after two hours' steady scrubbing I tossed aside my worn sponge and gave up the job. Some of the mud did come off, but the brook water had left broad streaks, effectually disguising the car, but not brightening it, and when I finally got it parked in front of our tents, it looked worse than ever. The spigot shower got most of the mud off my slicker and shoes, although it didn't exactly dry them; but a quick change, a cup of coffee, and all was well. And even the war was forgotten when a letter came giving all the news from home.
By chance I have had the good fortune to make the acquaintance of the major in charge of some heavy artillery batteries here, and his officers have taken me over the whole outfit, even showing me the photos, made by aviators, of German trenches and present positions. This evening I took Gardner Emmons back there with me, where I found several more French officers added to the company. We two conducteurs ---young Americans --- sat there as big as life, keeping them amused, while we ate their Breton cakes with jam and drank their tea. Gardner said how much he liked tea and how difficult it had been to find any, so that finally he bore off in triumph a whole can of it, thanks to the kindness of the major, who offered to take us along with him, promising better training than any artillery school can offer; but some questions as to citizenship and its retention stand in the way. Later, the major, who is a real old soldier and has been in service in all the colonies as an engineer, took me out in his car to see some mined towns and to point out various positions, and then invited me to lunch in his dining-car. We had omelette, roast duck with lettuce and peas, three kinds of wine, and chocolate pudding with baked apples and jam. It would have amused you to see me trying to keep up conversation in French with two captains, a lieutenant, and a major. Much to the amazement of the rest of the crowd here, the old major asked our lieutenants, French and American, and myself, to tea again the next day, and we enjoyed it a lot. I am going to ask father to send him a box of cigars soon, when I am permitted to give his name.
No matter what you say about the horrors of war, there are inspiring sights in connection with it. It is hard to judge what class of men are to be most admired; but the doctors are certainly playing an important and difficult part. It must be a strain on any man to be at top speed. day and night performing necessary operations. We bring in frightful cases, yet the doctors work cheerfully and continuously. The sisters of charity and nurses, who come so close to the front and have to work under an occasional shelling, also deserve great praise. As a general reflection, I should say that the French have stood the strain wonderfully and no praise of this nation can be exaggerated.
I have had no time to write this week on account of the attack in this sector, which we had been waiting for ever since we arrived here, knowing that when it did come there would be plenty of work. Last Saturday every car was gone over and finishing-touches put on, for we had been told that the great event would come in the morning; and sure enough, by eight o'clock the first wounded began to come in, when from then on car after car drew up and was unloaded. The sitting cases were smiling and happy for the most part, glad of a wound to keep them out of it for a time, though many complained that they would only be out for a month or so. But the lying cases were frightful and showed war in its most ghastly aspects. It was our first experience with any number of cases which had had only rough poste treatment, and I admit it was sickening. That feeling, however, has gone now, after a week of steady work and seeing such revolting sights so often. The mud from the trenches, of course, made the shattered men lying on the stretchers appear far worse. Most of them seemed to be hurt in the head or about the legs, and were carried into the big tents to a long table, where their wounds were examined hastily and the men assigned to different tents, according to the nature of the wounds. The surgeons soon were busy, performing one operation after another, while a long line of stretchers waited their turn. They stood on their feet doing this difficult work all day and most of the night without a let-up, and have stuck to it. For the most part, no anæsthetics were used. These French soldiers are a brave lot.
It wasn't long before all our cars began to roll, taking men from a central tent to hospitals in all directions, the hospital depending on the nature of the case. Fractures, for instance, go to a town which is our longest trip, to make which takes us three hours in daytime. All trips take longer at night because it is difficult to drive without lights and then there is more traffic on the roads. It was something new for the Section to have all the cars rolling; but every one worked hard, and things went well. After the first two days ten cars went on for twenty-four hours, and then the next ten changed off. We keep the cars lined up outside the clearing-house tent and move out in the order in which we come in. During the day every one wants to get a long trip, and is disgusted when his car stands first and he has to go just about two kilometres to a hospital for very serious cases. At night this does n't hold, because then the strain tells before you get back.
Wednesday morning I went on at six and worked all day, getting meals, mostly cold, from one to two hours late. Finished a seventy-kilometre trip at eleven-thirty that night and then lay down on a stretcher in a spare tent to sleep. At twelve-thirty a call came for a little longer trip to two hospitals to which I had never been before; but as we are provided with small maps, I anticipated no trouble finding the hospitals in question. So three couchés were loaded in the dark, and off we started. I knew the roads for a quarter of the distance, and so had no trouble in dodging trucks and officers' cars, which fly by at a terrific rate. But it was a different proposition on the strange roads, and the few stars that were out helped but little. You are keyed up to the highest pitch, staring into the darkness ahead of you and trying to keep on your side of the road without getting into the yawning ditches. Fortunately, I had only one man who groaned at the bumps; so it made going a bit easier.
On the crossroads in most of the towns stood sentinels with a dull light; so with their help I found the first hospital and there left two of my wounded. Then I started off again, praying, for the sake of the man in the rear of the car, that I should be able to find the next place without delay. No sooner had I made the first turn out of the town than I met wagon trains coming in the opposite direction. Of all things to pass at night, these wagon trains are the worst, for the horses and mules walk all over the road, in spite of efforts to keep them on their own side. Especially when the train halts the horses turn sideways and the men sit beside the wagons.
I crept on through the next town --- most of the houses were shattered by shell-fire and were ghastly at night --and finally began to worry about finding my hospital. In the next village I woke a guard who,. when he was sufficiently awake, told me that I had passed the town in which the hospital was located. It was discouraging to have to turn back, and I felt sorry for the chap in the car; but it had to be done. I got back to the town in due time, and found the wagons still filing through it, but saw no hospital. So leaving the car in the road with a sentinel, who swore he had never heard of a hospital in that town, I started off on foot to locate it. I ran in one direction and then up the street in an opposite way, afraid at first to go far from the car. About every block I would pound on a door and try to stir up some one; but nothing stirred. In one place some one stuck his head out of a window, cursing at me for flashing a spot-light, because of flying machines. In two houses the voices of women replied to my shouted inquiries; but neither had ever heard of a hospital there. By this time I was hot and about ready to give up, when an officer of a wagon train helped me wake up a truck driver, fast asleep in the bottom of his vehicle, who put on his shoes and started up the road with me in the direction from which I had originally passed through the town, though he had arrived just that evening and was weary, after a forty-eight-hour drive. After walking for five or ten minutes, he stopped and told me to fetch the car, for we were now near a hospital which he had passed as he came in that day; and sure enough, not five hundred yards off, was the hospital I was looking for, totally hidden by trees and its entrance concealed by a wagon train. It stood on my left as I came into the town and I had missed it quite naturally. We now woke up the stretcher-bearers at the hospital and took the wounded man out of my car. He was asleep, and evidently had been so for some time; so all was well. But he finally woke up when he was rolled off the stretcher in order to give it to me. I would do anything for that driver, for to me he is a nameless friend and benefactor.
It was so late now that I decided not to hurry; so I stopped to drink a thermos bottle of hot black coffee. This was a godsend and helped make the ride back a lot easier. Anyway, you always start home with a breath of relief and a care-free feeling, since you are relieved of your wounded or sick cases. But this particular return trip was a bit different from ordinary ones, for most all the way back I had to pass the same wagon trains which I had met coming. I was now going with them, which is harder, for you have to get into the train somehow, and it's often hard to get out again. For instance, at one place I was held up on a narrow bridge, between two huge carts, for half an hour, while at another spot they were kind enough to move over twenty carts into the field, so that I could get by. It was necessary all the way back to drive with the right hand on the wheel and the left continually blowing the horn. I skinned a few trees and ran over some piles of stones where the road was being mended, but finally got safely back to our poste at the hospital, at just 4.30 A.M.
A Sous-Chef --- A BIRTHDAY PARTY
I had a trip yesterday afternoon, and a long one it was; but I did n't have to go out during the night. We slept in a spare tent, fully dressed and ready to go out, which ten of the cars did do. It was pouring rain and very cold. No one slept a wink, not because the stretchers were hard, but because one blanket did not keep the cold out. Charlie and I talked part of the night, and now and then got up for coffee. We are on again to-night, but will have some trips so that we shan't think so much about the cold in bed. By the way, up to three or four days ago, we had carried, since August 1, fifteen hundred men. But during the last few days the average has been higher because of the attack. I have been chosen Sous-Chef, and certainly appreciate the honor, for I would rather be with this Section than do anything else. I think far more of the Service after the hard work we have gone through, and I want to stick to it now. There is something more personal in this branch of the Service than in any other, especially when you help run one of these sections; and I shall now be busier than ever getting into my new job.
Last night I celebrated my twenty-first birthday by adding knickknacks to the dinner. We had quite a feast, and palatable things which are different from our usual menu make a strong appeal to twenty-five hungry men. Davis, our supply purchaser, helped me out by getting a few things in a large town near by, and then Charlie, Gardner Emmons, and Sammy Wendell aided by peeling potatoes, so that the cook would have time to cook stuffed tomatoes. Well, the first extra was butter, served with the soup, the same kind we have had every night since leaving Paris. With the stuffed tomatoes, potatoes, and meat, we had some of the thermos-kept chocolate, which was a great treat. Then came two bottles of champagne for each table, which was the trump card, of course. To the dessert of canned pears were added sweet crackers, candy, and grapes, which rounded out the dinner.
A BATTERY IN ACTION
On Thursday all were quite busy, as "155's " kept going for about ten hours. Most of the cars had a call at seven, just before breakfast, to carry gas cases --- trench artillerymen affected by a new gas which burns deeply through their uniforms. The acid is sent off after the explosion of the shells. The gas-masks proved ineffectual, as most of the men's eyes were visibly swollen. Then I had a long trip to base hospital for medicines for these cases and got back to our evacuation hospital just in time for two more trips to the town, to which we went in the morning and to the station. On the way to the hospital for gas cases, you have to cross a wide meadow, river, and canal by a narrow bridge, which is just wide enough for a single wagon, and as there always are wagons just ahead of you, one has to crawl along in low for an interminable length of time, which is tiresome. But Charlie and I found the bridge by which you return empty of trucks, and it was a great relief to rattle along unimpeded.
The next day I had a call from my battery commander to come to his post, as they were about to open up for the first time and wanted a car on hand in case of trouble. Bingham went along with me to see the guns fire, but we did n't expect much work. Right after coffee we hustled along and left the car on the road at one of the entrances to the field, just as the commander had instructed me to do on my first visit. We went through the camouflage which hides the road and into the field, where the guns stood uncovered, ready for action, lined up parallel, with ammunition cars directly in rear. The guns were not loaded, as this is about the last step before firing; but the crews were ready and one shell lay on the steel slot waiting to be shoved into the open breech. Two bags of powder in baskets were placed farther back on the gun platform, while another shell hung ready to take the place of number one. Twenty minutes later we were startled to hear the telephonist, in a half-covered dugout beside the gun, repeat the commands to charge the piece, whereupon the crew rushed to position, the fuse was screwed in, the shell shoved far into the breech, the heavy lock swung, the cord attached to the firing-pin, and as the muzzle of the gun swung upwards by the turning of a crank on the side, the crew jumped from the platform and stood beside the ammunition car. All was now ready, and the sergeant stood with raised hand ready, at the word from the telephonist, who listened eagerly for the captain's voice from the field headquarters, to signal to the man holding the firing cord. "Tirez!" came the order, the hand dropped, and the man beside the gun pulled the cord with both hands, when, with a loud resounding report and a spurt of flame, the huge gun jumped back about six feet, and the shell sped out on its way, sounding like a locomotive drawing heavy Pullmans at break-neck speed; and as the wind took it, you could imagine you heard the train rounding sharp curves until finally no sound could be distinguished. A small ring of white smoke went circling up as the crew jumped forward again to reload, while the three other guns were touched off. It all goes much quicker than this; in fact, you just have time to watch the shell from one gun go toward a white cloud when the next fellow speaks. There is considerable concussion, but you expect something so much worse, that, after No. 1 has spoken, you let your curiosity overcome your standoffishness. The crews race one another in reloading, so that it is seldom more than a couple of minutes before all is ready again. Two men rode on the platform while gun No. 3 was fired, which is quite a feat.
Yesterday, just after breakfast, the Germans started to send "380's" into the town for the first time since our first Sunday here. The whole thing lasted about an hour and a half. Wiswall, Dadmun, and Frenning were on duty and had to make trips, but nothing went amiss. One of them carried two nurses, one a girl of seventeen who had arrived at a hospital in the town the night before. She was very severely wounded and is in a doubtful condition. The other was wounded in the face. They were brave women and deserve all honor. A nurse from Pittsburgh was in the same dugout at the time, and told us the circumstances. Three men in the same dugout were killed outright and were buried this morning.
THE GERMANS BOMB A HOSPITAL
Dugny, September 4
It has become necessary to close the hospitals in this town because of shell-fire, which did not spare them. Ours was the last to empty its wounded, and this was finally accomplished yesterday morning. Of course, this left the plant still here with most of the doctors and nurses and ourselves. So we took off all the cars and prepared to enjoy our first night of rest, as we thought it would be! It was the first clear, bright night that we have had for two weeks. A full moon lit up the sky and earth, while the flares and flashes from the trenches showed clearly over the ridges in front. It was a glorious sight. We watched it from the bridge for a while, and reluctantly turned in, when I was suddenly awakened by our Lieutenant's voice on the 'phone --- "Three cars wanted immediately in front of the operating-tent!" Bombs were falling! Our Chef had heard the first ones, and being up, went into the next tent and called out Squibb, Clynch, and Emmons. I got dressed and went out to help them start the cars. It was about midnight and the full moon still lit up our red crosses, so that they could have been seen for a long distance. The German flying-machine was hovering just overhead, while fusées and two searchlights were directed up toward him to guide anti-aircraft gun-fire. In the meanwhile two more bombs dropped on the other side of the hospital from us. Two of the cars were now ready; so we started up toward the operating-barracks, when a fallen telephone wire got entangled with both cars, one at a time, causing some delay and bringing some oaths from the drivers. The third car now joined us, and we backed them up ready when the doctors put the stretchers in with the wounded, who had received only first aid. There were five of them --- one captain and some non-commissioned officers, who, at the sound of the Boche machine, had come out of their tent to watch it, when a bomb dropped just between their tent and the office twenty feet or so away, with the fatal results just noted. Only two of the cars were needed for these cases, and they soon got off for the nearest hospital still open. We left the other car standing where it was, and stepped into the barracks for another fellow, when the sound of a motor kept coming nearer and nearer and every one fell flat on his face. An open abri, a narrow, deep trench in front of us, was soon filled with doctors who popped up now and then from nowhere, producing a rather amusing effect. On the ground close by was the huge red cross of crushed stone, showing the Boches that this was a hospital. There we found a small hole, not two feet deep, and two steel helmets, one of which had a clean quarter-inch hole through the lower part. These helmets belonged to the two doctors who had been killed and who had been doing wonderful work. Their loss is consequently a hard one. The red cross was no protection to them, although they have treated Boche and French wounded alike. The head doctor, who had his finger cut by a splinter of one of the bombs, said to us: "The huge crosses of red on the centre tents were also certainly visible on a night like last night." So, though they knew it was a hospital, these abominable Germans deliberately dropped bombs on it --- eleven in all. Two dropped just before the large centre tent, riddling it with holes from one end to the other; another took off the end of a tent in the rear; one more passed through the roof of the pharmacy and tore a narrow hole about fifteen feet deep before exploding; while three fell not far from our tents, two across the railroad tracks, and the third in back of us.
We lay down again to sleep at about two, then another call came at four to get a wounded man at a railroad crossing on the other side of the town. So I got up the night man on reserve and went along with him to help find the blessé, whom we found in rather bad shape, as it had taken some time to send a message to us, the telephone wire having been cut. We took him to the hospital, and got back at six-thirty in the morning.
The next night was again clear, a moonlit, glorious September night. But every one was prepared this time. Frenchmen about here began filling the dugouts as early as six o'clock. Our crowd waited until after six-thirty supper, and then began to scatter in all directions. Some took blankets and coats and went into the fields to the right, to spend the night. Others camped behind haystacks over beyond the railroad tracks, while more slept in the narrow trenches outside the tent, in which only three spent the night. But no one was so far away that he could not have been found in a short time if cars were needed. I slept in our tent near the telephone, or rather slept most of the time. Aviators came over and at times got very close to us, but dropped nothing so near as on the previous night. Possibly, seeing that most of the hospital tents were down, they decided that this place had had enough.
A DINNER --- BOCHE PRISONERS
For a change of diet, "English" arranged a dinner for Richmond and me in the village at a small cottage where live two old Frenchwomen, who have been shelled from their own district and so have settled down here. You enter by a narrow alley, at the end of which are two doors, one leading into the stable, which is part of the cottage, while the other opens into the main room-kitchen, living- and dining-room all in one. In the centre is a large table with places set and goblets polished brightly, while at one end is an open fireplace with the mantel a foot from the low ceiling. On the hearth a small fire crackled and warmed three-legged pots in which our dinner was cooking. Above the table hung the wooden rack, familiar to these houses, laden with lard and bread. On the sides were suspended pots of every description, and in the corner opposite the stairway leading to the wine-cellar stood a grandfather's clock, which I have no doubt would be highly prized by an American. One of the old women cooked over the fire, while the other talked incessantly about all the noble families who lived near their former residence before the war. She had supplied them with milk, and so knew all there was to be known about their affairs. Finally, when the meal was ready, we found that we had an omelette, green peas, chicken, lettuce, a chocolate pudding with crackers, and, to finish, coffee with cream, which is considered quite a treat and is served in glasses. Persuaded by "English," the talkative one dived into the cellar and reappeared with a choice bottle of Burgundy. While at coffee, she suddenly became nervous, running back and forth into an outside room, for she had heard an aviator overhead and knew it to be a Boche. So she packed her belongings in a great handkerchief tied in a huge knot, dumped from a box into her apron the money which they had made selling eggs, beer, etc., to the soldiers, and went into the stable, where she took refuge under the cow, whence she finally came out long enough to allow us to pay for our supper. The bill amounted to five francs each, and it took her at least half an hour to figure it up.
We have just made an interesting visit to a French prison camp for Germans in a fair-sized town near here. The captain in charge led us along a high barbed-wire fence to a gate guarded by two sentries. It was about noontime in the camp, so the fifteen hundred or more Boches were lined up in a column four wide, facing the large soup pails. The French guards were careful that after the tin mess kits had been once filled, the prisoners did not come back for more. They sat about on the ground eating with apparently much relish their steaming soup with macaroni in it. They get coffee in the morning, and at lunch and at supper a mess kit of this soup, which contains one vegetable. Sometimes when they have been working hard, boxes of "monkey" meat are divided among them. In addition, they are given a liberal allowance of bread. The prisoners seem to be of a low caste, and so probably eat here as well as they would at home. Their cooks are Boche prisoners; so if there is little variety in their food, it is often the fault of their own cooks. These men were of all ages, some very old, others young.
This camp, which is merely an open, bare field enclosed by a high double fence of barbed wire, is a front one, a sort of clearing-house in which the prisoners are gathered, sorted, and sent to the interior where their quarters are far more comfortable. They sleep in barracks, but have neither beds nor blankets. Some are lucky enough to have overcoats of their own, while the rest have ground sheets which they carry over their shoulders all the time. Many a button is missing, many a trouser leg patched, but they are fed, have a place to sleep, and are "out of it," which is more important; so "What more could you ask?" seems to be their mood. After that we thanked our guides and left, bearing away with us the feeling that the prisoners of war on this side of the lines were being fairly treated.
Near Soissons, October 1
The house we are in belongs to an old lady, who has lived here for sixty-five years and who lets chicken, geese, and a dog run loose in the courtyard; and between them they keep things lively. At first, the dog was as timid as the old lady toward "the Americans"; but they soon got used to us. The old lady now even makes the beds and brings water. Since the war began, she tells us, she has had English, Australian, and French officers of all ranks quartered with her, and as each one wanted his bed made differently, she says she never knows what to do. But now that she has found out that we don't care how she makes the beds, she has become all the more friendly to "those easily pleased Americans."
A SUCCESSFUL ATTACK
Vauxrot, October 27
The French have made a successful attack here. We worked with a French section, and carried about one-third Boches. It was a revelation to see the way these Boches were treated with just as much consideration as the French wounded. The stretcher-bearers saw that they got bread and hot soup from the buffet and showed no bitterness toward them at all. The stretchers of these Germans were always surrounded by a crowd, including many Americans, questioning them and joking about the Kaiser. All the Americans present naturally came away with Boche helmets, gas-masks, caps, and all sorts of things, much to the amusement of the French doctors. You usually throw all these things away after a couple of days, or when you move, though the gas-masks are worth preserving because of their effectiveness. They are heavy, but well made, and serve their purpose. The stretchers are too heavy and complicated to be useful, and are characteristic of the Boches.
ALBERT EDWARD MAcDOUGALL*
*These extracts are from a personal diary.
SUMMARY OF THE SECTION'S HISTORY
UNDER THE UNITED STATES ARMY
At the formation of new Section Six-Forty-Two --- Old Thirty as we still liked to call it --- Chef Richmond immediately became Lieutenant Richmond, Sous-Chef MacDougall, First-Sergeant MacDougall, and J. Oliver Beebe, Sergeant. Late November and early December were spent at Soissons, serving the Hôpital Militaire. On the 9th the Section went to Chacrise, five miles to the south of Soissons, and was attached to the 22e Division d'infanterie, which consisted of the 19th, 62d, and 118th Regiments and the 39e Régiment d'artillerie. Here were first met M. Petit, real if not nominal, head of the G.B.D. 22, and M. l'Aumonier Bossuet, the Division Priest, who could boast, but did n't, that every man in the Division was his friend. On the 19th the Section went to Juvigny, north of Soissons, where it remained until the 12th of March, serving postes in the sector between Coucy-le-Château and the Vauxaillon-Pinon region.
Leaving here the Section slowly went with the rest of the Division to Lagny, near Paris, supposedly for repos, but had scarcely encamped when at 6 P.M. on the 21st of March the alerte was received; at midnight orders to move; and at sunrise movement in the direction of the great retreat of the Somme began. Five days and five nights the Division worked, the men almost without equipment or ammunition, and it aided most effectually in the final arrest of the Hun on about the 29th. This was probably the hardest work which the Section was called upon to do, though the costs were much less than in the next retreat. The work done by the Section may be judged by the seven individual citations received by the officers and four men.
From this battle the Division went to the Aisne front, stopping en route at Vic-sur-Aisne and Braisne. The Section was stationed April 29th at Œuilly, just north of the Aisne, serving various postes on the Chemin des Dames. Here the Section suffered the loss of its much-loved Lieutenant Ralph Richmond, who went to take command of a parc and was replaced by Lieutenant Brady.
A comfortable time was spent here during the following weeks of spring. All day the 26th of May nothing went on out of the ordinary. The General sent his Chief of Staff to Paris for a twenty-four hour permission. Still all continued calm. At six o'clock came the alerte. At midnight the barrage and the gas, the most intense fire imaginable. At five o'clock the Boches came over, and Section Six-Forty-Two, with what was left of the Division, started the second great retreat, but not until it had left four men, Wright, Thorpe, Al Brook, and Murphy, and eight cars, in the hands of the enemy. Jack Adams was wounded by a shell, which blew in the stone wall of the cantonment at Fismes at noontime, after a morning of most commendable work, James was seriously wounded and captured later in the day; the car he was driving also went to the enemy after not inconsiderable effort had been made to save it. The Section retired, with the Division, through Fismes, Fère-en-Tardenois, and crossed the Marne to be relieved at Condé-en-Brie on the 31st of May, after the remaining eleven cars from the Section had taken the last of the wounded from the hospitals at Château-Thierry --- the last transportation in the town before its capture. At Montmirail, where we were next located, the American troops passed us heading for Château-Thierry to stem the tide of invasion.
From June 5 to 14 the Section was en repos at Marcilly-sur-Seine. On the 14th, a three-days' convoy was started for Alsace. The Division was assembled at La Thillot and then went in line on the 21st in the Thann-Hartmannsweilerkopf-Col-de-Bussang sector --- the État-Major going to Wesserling and the Section and the G.B.D. to Ranspach. Here a most delightful five weeks of beautiful summer were passed in reconquered Alsace. Only one thing marred the general happiness and that was the incessant changing of speed-bands. Here two of the Section's most-liked and valued men left: "Ed" MacDougall got his commission and took command of S.S.U. Five-Seventy-Four, and "English," Maréchal des Logis, was assigned to do liaison work with the American Army. The latter was replaced by Schoeler, long with Old Seventeen.
On September 1 convoy was made by easy stages to Brusson, near Vitry-le-François, where we waited for the expected attack in the Champagne. After the Saint-Mihiel drive, all the high officers of the Division were taken up there in twelve cars to observe the work of the Americans, which was considered to have been carried out in a most remarkable manner.
Then came a slow movement toward the front. On the 25th, definite news of the attack came. On the 26th we were in line at Souain, and at that point took place the first real advance which the Section had enjoyed. It was a delightful sensation, particularly for the officers and non-coms, as it was a relief from much of the responsibility which came with the earlier retreats.
September 26 to October 6 was spent in General Gouraud's offensive, with numerous postes served in the region of Souain, Somme-Py, Saint-Clément-à-Arnes, Saint-Étienne-à-Arnes, Sainte Marie-à-Py, Ville-sur-Retourne, and Le Ménil. For services during these days the Section was honored by a citation to the order of the Corps d'Armée. Also seven more men received individual citations from the Division.
From October 16 to the 27th we were en repos at Trepail. From October 27 until November 6 we went back with our Division for a continuation of the Champagne-Ardennes offensive. The Section cantonment was at Dricourt and it served various postes in the Attigny-Vouziers sector. It was about this time that Sergeant Beebe was sent away to get his commission and take command of S.S.U. Five-Seventy-Eight. From November 6 to 10 the Section took part in the final rapid advance of the Allies through Tourteron and Bouvellemont, toward the Meuse. November 11 found it en repos at Saint-Lambert. November 12 until the 23d it convoyed across Northern France and Belgium via Flize, Carignan, and Isel. From November 23 until December 11 it remained at Martelange, in Belgium, and from the latter date until December 27 at Redange, in Luxembourg.
On December 27 and 28 it convoyed back to France and went to Montmédy, where it remained until called into Base Camp on February 18, 1919, preparatory to going home. Here the time was wearily and expectantly passed until March 4, when it went to Brest, en route for Camp Dix and demobilization.
Thus briefly ends the glorious history of S.S.U. Six-Forty-Two, née Thirty, and few moments, indeed, will ever be forgotten and few of the friendships lost, it is hoped, that were started and made during those memorable months and years.
J. OLIVER BEEBE*
*Of Boston, Massachusetts; Harvard, '16; served with Section Thirty of the Field Service, and as sergeant of Section Six-Forty-Two; subsequently a Lieutenant in the U.S.A. Ambulance Service.
- Section (WWI): S.S.U. 30